Parents have a prime responsibility of assisting in the prevention and management of head lice cases through regular checks of their child’s hair and starting immediate treatment when head lice are detected.
While head lice are a nuisance, they do spread disease and are not a health issue. Should a case of head lice be brought to the school’s attention, school personnel will maintain confidentiality at school, verify presence of an active infestation, and bring it to the parents’ attention.
If at all possible, students should not be excluded from school for having head lice, as the management of head lice should not disrupt the educational process of the child. The need to exclude students from school will be determined on a case by case basis.
This policy is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Nation Association of School Nurses, and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
WHAT ARE HEAD LICE?
Head lice are small insects that live in people’s hair and feed on their blood. Lice lay their eggs next to the scalp and glue their eggs, or “nits,” to a hair shaft. Eggs take six to nine days to hatch into baby lice called nymphs. In about seven days the nymphs become adults. Adult females lay 3-5 eggs a day. Head lice die quickly (within two days) without feeding so they cannot live very long away from a person’s head. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice. Children are most likely to get head lice because of their close contact with each other. There is no way to know where a child got head lice. Homes or schools do not get head lice – people do. Current research indicates that most lice infestations are rarely contracted in the school setting.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD HAS HEAD LICE?
- Your child may complain of itching of the scalp and may have small red marks on the scalp.
- The only way to know if your child has head lice is to look through their hair. It is recommended that you check your child’s hair weekly. If one family member is found to have lice or nits, check everyone in the household.
- Part the hair into small sections and look for adult lice, nymphs and nits.
- Don’t be surprised if you don’t see any nymphs or adults. Because they are the size of a sesame seed or smaller and crawl very quickly they may not be noticed.
- Don’t confuse dirt or dandruff with nits. Nits sick on an individual hair shaft. Nits that are more than ¼ inch from the scalp have most likely hatched.
HOW TO TREAT HEAD LICE?
Treatment consists of a 3-step process
- Head lice shampoo
- Nit removal
- Environmental clean up
HEAD LICE SHAMPOO
- Head lice shampoo can be purchased at any drug store. Follow label directions completely and thoroughly.
- Treat everyone in the household who have head lice.
- Each person with head lice needs a complete treatment. Do not split a single box of shampoo between people.
- Do not leave the product on for a longer time than recommended.
- Since head lice shampoo may contain pesticides, do not retreat sooner than the label recommends.
- Check with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.
- Complete nit removal is the key to successful head lice treatment since head lice shampoo may not kill all of the nits.
- Nits can be removed with special combs or manually.
- Work in a well-lighted area.
- Divide the hair into sections and fasten off the hair that is not being worked on.
- Go through each hair section from the scalp to the end of the hair. Comb or use your fingers to pull of the nits.
- Move on to the next section until the entire scalp and all hair had been checked and all nits have been removed.
HOW DO I CLEAN UP THE ENVIRONMENT?
- To kill lice on bedding, clothes, etc., wash in hot water and dry.
- Dry clean clothing that is not washable.
- Store clothing, stuffed animals, comforters, etc. that cannot be washed or dry cleaned into a plastic bag and seal for 2 weeks.
- Vacuum materials that cannot be washed (furniture, carpets).
- Pesticide sprays are not recommended, as they have not been proven effective and they can be a health hazard.
- To kill lice on brushes, combs or hair accessories, soak them in hot water.
HOW TO KEEP LICE OUT OF HAIR?
- Teach kids not to share personal grooming items, hair decorations, hats or clothing.
- Store coats, hats and backpacks separately.
- Consider putting long hair back into braided pony tails or pigtails.
- Vacuum daily.
- Encourage kids to use only their own pillows, blankets, etc.
- Look around. What items are shared by kids, such as headsets, helmets, costumes?
- Check immediately if you notice your child scratching their head.
- Notify other parents with whom your kids have had contact.
- Teach your kids how lice are spread.
- Check for head lice at least once a week.